You’ve already starting looking outside the heart-shaped chocolate box with our earlier suggestions for unusual-yet-romantic Valentine’s Day plans. The big day is near, so you could a) scramble to get a dinner reservation like every other procrastinator in Washington, or b) get moving on an alternate path.
Go Underground, or Pop Up
Love the idea of a romantic dinner out but not so much the love-day clichés? Check out the latest in underground dining at the chic Blagden Alley Social Club, hosted in the home of Good Wood owners Dan and Anna Kahoe. Recent Top Chef contestant Jeffrey Jew prepares the intimate, 14-person meal; dishes include caviar and lobster canapés, lamb tenderloin with Israeli couscous and mint-red wine demiglace, and chocolate peanut butter pot de crème. How it works, per Anna: “We pour generous drinks; you surrender.” E-mail email@example.com for reservations ($150 per person).
Those looking for something (way) more casual—and who don’t mind celebrating late—can head to Birch & Barley on February 15 or 22 for a pop-up of the upcoming GBD, the fried-chicken-and-doughnuts venture from Kyle Bailey and Tiffany MacIsaac. There are no reservations, and service runs from 11 AM until the fried deliciousness sells out, so grab your loved one early to ensure you don’t miss out.
Want to celebrate Valentine’s Day with a nice dinner? We’ve rounded up spots around town offering special menus, romantically themed cocktails, and more treats to show that special someone you care enough to feed them.
Practically every restaurant in Washington offers some sort of special Valentine’s Day meal (and if they don’t, it’s still special, because the given restaurant is one of a handful not participating in the Day of Love). This sets the bar pretty high for all you romancers looking to stand out from the pack. So before you start weeding through prix-fixe menus and various promotions—which we’ll cover in full in the weeks to come—here are a few alternatives to kickstart the creative process.
Sure, oysters are aphrodisiacs, as at least one in every three Valentine’s restaurant promotion will remind you. You know what else is an aphrodisiac? Getting the hell out of town. Double up by hightailing it to Topping, Virginia (roughly two-and-a-half hours from Washington), where Rappahanock Oyster Company set up Merroir, a cozy riverside oyster house with craft brews, wines, and plenty of fresh bivalves served on the half-shell or in prepared small plates. Find a nearby Rappahannock inn, or go for a more cosmopolitan stay in Richmond, an hour away. Too much driving? The oyster company recently opened a similar eatery in the new Union Market.
For the uninitiated, January 6 is Epiphany, or King’s Day, in the Catholic Church. This is the day the three wise men (the magi) showed up in Bethlehem bearing their gifts of frankincense, gold, and myrrh. In New Orleans, it kicks off the famous Carnival season that leads up to Mardi Gras—the last day before Lent—which this year falls on February 12.
In Louisiana the time between Epiphany and Mardi Gras day is celebrated with a round cake covered with green, purple, and gold sugars. Sometimes the cake is made with cinnamon, and sometimes it’s stuffed with various fillings like cream cheese, fruit, or praline. It always comes with a small plastic baby inside. If you receive the piece with the baby, it supposedly means you have good luck for the day. (It really means you have to buy the next king cake!)
Meanwhile, in Northern France, Epiphany is celebrated throughout January with a cake
known as the
galette des rois (which, yes, translates into “cake of the king”). This cake is generally flaky and
almond-flavored and contains a small porcelain baby or a bean. Whichever type you
prefer, there are plenty of places to pick one up in Washington. Be sure to call ahead
to confirm availability.
Instead of agonizing over a New Year’s Eve menu this year, Eric Ziebold at CityZen did the smart thing and let his loyal diners decide. Three weeks ago he sent out a “ballot” with candidates for each of the eight courses he plans to serve on the 31st. The dozens of choices represented the most popular dishes from the acclaimed restaurant’s eight years at the Mandarin Oriental Hotel.
Now, we have the winning menu. The sold-out feast will set diners back $225—unless they want to add pairings by sommelier Andy Myers, which costs an additional $200.
This festive confection from Ripple pastry chef Alison Reed is easy to make but, thanks to decidedly adult flavors like pistachio and olive oil, will feel sophisticated enough for a New Year feast. At the Cleveland Park wine bar and restaurant, Reed serves it with pumpkin ganache, dried cherries, and candied pumpkin seeds.
Olive Oil Pistachio Financier
Yield: 32 mini muffins
1 cup unsalted butter
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup ground almond flour
2 ⅔ cups confectioners sugar
16 egg whites
1 cup olive oil
½ cup ground pistachios
This lovely lamb shoulder with olives, apricots, and almonds from Food, Wine & Co. executive chef Michael Harr is extra-festive thanks to a garnish of glazed prunes.
Braised shoulder of lamb, glazed prunes, olive, apricot, and roasted, crushed almonds
Serves 2 to 4 people
1 two-pound lamb shoulder
½ cup butter
8 garlic cloves, crushed
1 cup onions, finely diced
1 tablespoon ginger, grated
1 teaspoon saffron
1 cinnamon stick
1 thyme sprig
1 quart chicken stock
1 cup dried apricots, chopped
¼ cup Marcona almonds, roasted
1 teaspoon olive oil
1 teaspoon mint
1 teaspoon parsley
¼ cup prunes
1 cup red wine
1 cinnamon stick
3 tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon salt
“I’ve put booze in baked goods for a long time,” says Crunkcakes co-owner Faith Alice Sleeper. Along with partner Raychel Sabath, she create confections that are a far cry from precious.
The recipe for these alcoholic cake balls is pretty straightforward, though Sleeper did offer one helpful tip: You’ll want to add the frosting a half cup at a time to the crumbs to make sure the mixture won’t get too moist, which makes shaping the balls harder (a stint in the fridge or freezer will also help firm them up). Happy cooking, and happier eating.
New Year’s Day lands on a Tuesday this year, so we figured you’d need a little guidance figuring out what’s open, what’s closed, etc. Hence this list of stress-free brunch spots to celebrate the New Year. Whether you’re trying to recover from the celebration or ready to take on 2013 with a can-do attitude (if so, please do that quietly, the rest of us are trying to have a hangover over here), there are options galore. Below, brunches for every state you in which you may find yourself on the first of the year.
You’re: Ready for brunch on New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day.
Deal: Brunch lovers can hit up this Dupont dining room twice in a row for dishes like deviled eggs or fried ones over cheese grits with bacon and hollandaise. Another draw: $2 mimosas.
Details: Monday, December 31, and Tuesday, January 1, 9 to 2; à-la-carte menu
You’re: Still dressed from the night before.
Destination: Jackson 20
Deal: Turn the walk of shame into the walk of awesome at this Alexandria hotel spot, where diners in day-old dress receive a lucky 13 percent off their checks (exclusive of tax, gratuity, and booze).
Details: 9 to 3; à-la-carte brunch menu
You’re: Ravenous and thirsty on 14th Street.
Destination: Masa 14
Deal: Unlimited drinks and small plates are yours from Masa’s menu, which means as many lychee bellinis and bánh mì burgers as you can stomach.
Details: 10 to 3; $35 per person (à la carte is also available but clearly not as
You’re: Ravenous and thirsty in Penn Quarter.
Deal: This sister spot by Richard Sandoval offers a similar all-you-can-eat-and-drink deal on its small-plates menu, this one filled with the likes of sushi rolls, dim sum, and plates such as short-rib hash with poached eggs.
Details: 11:30 to 2:30; $35 per person, $10 for children under ten
You’re: Wearing pajamas.
Destination: Mon Ami Gabi Reston
Deal: The French cafe invites diners to show up in their jammies, and rewards them with a gift certificate equal to the price of their meal (before tax and tip) for doing so.
Details: 10 to 4; à-la-carte brunch menu
You’re: Still in the mood to dance.
Destination: Bar Dupont
Deal: DJ Philipz spins while you down bottomless mimosas and Bloodys and graze from an appetizer buffet (main courses are à la carte).
Details: 11 AM to 4 PM; $45 for buffet and drinks, $25 for buffet exclusively
You’re: Unhappy on dry land.
Destination: The Odyssey
Deal: Hit the deck of this cruise ship for a brunch buffet accompanied by live entertainment and watery views.
Details: 11:15 board time until 2; $60 per person
You’re: Looking for rowdy fun.
Deal: The famous drag queen brunch makes a special Tuesday appearance, meaning weekday sequins and Streisand for all.
Details: 10 to 3:30; $24.95 per person for a buffet menu,
the show, and one complimentary cocktail
You’re: In need of hydration.
Deal: Gatorade cocktails like “electrolyte lemonade” with lemonade-flavored ’rade, lemongrass, and citrus vodka are on offer in the newly redesigned dining room.
Details: The regular brunch menu, plus $14
for bottomless mimosas or Bloodys
Guests of Alain Ducasse’s elegant restaurant in the St. Regis Hotel will be offered a special three-course menu with options such as Maine lobster salad, braised sea bass, and a “chocolate celebration” with a hazelnut praline.
Where: 923 16th St., NW
Hours: 5:30 PM for the early seating; 8 for the later
Info: Early seating—$95 for adults; $45 for children. Later seating: $195 for adults; $60 for children. Reserve on OpenTable or call 202-509-8000.
A three-course prix-fixe meal featuring lobster salad, pheasant breast, and filet mignon highlights the New Year’s Eve celebration at this Mediterranean spot on 17th Street, Northwest. Guests will be treated to a belly-dancing performance and a complimentary Champagne toast at midnight.
Where: 1727 17th St., NW
Hours: 5 to 8 PM for à-la-carte menu; tasting menu available from 9 on
Info: $85 per person. Reserve on OpenTable or call 202-332-6767.
A Mad Men-themed three-course dinner party at Art Smith’s Capitol Hill eatery will have everything from a fried oyster salad to beef Wellington and a bananas Foster sundae. Guests will also be treated to a live jazz band.
Where: 415 New Jersey Ave., NW
Hours: 5:30 PM for the first seating; 7 for the second
Info: $75 per person for the first seating, $85 per person for the second.
Bandolero’s Mexican Cowboy Countdown event will treat guests to regular menu items such as suckling pig tacos, tuna taquitos, and lamb sopes. The price includes an open bar and all-you-can-eat hors d’oeuvres.
Where: 3241 M St., NW
Hours: Party begins at 8:30 PM
Info: $150 per person. Purchase at CityEats.
Chef Jon Mathieson plans to go all out on the 31st with a special truffle-heavy menu including surf and turf with filet mignon, Maine lobster, and French truffles; pan-seared day-boat scallops with foie gras and savoy cabbage fondue; and a truffle duo of soup and risotto. Traveling around the downtown steakhouse will be a Champagne and caviar cart with three different Osetra and domestic caviars plus grower Champagnes and vintage Dom Perignon (available for $20 to $80 by the glass).
Where: 1625 I St., NW
Hours: Seatings available from 5:30 to 11 PM
Info: $60 for prix-fixe three-course menu. À-la-carte also available. Reserve by calling 202-689-8999.